The ability to obtain an optimal and stable psychological state during competition is of utmost importance to coaches and athletes [1
]. Physical, social, cognitive, and emotional factors factor into such functioning, as these resources restore balance when a young athlete is in the face of adversity [4
]. In this sense, the study of anxiety has been one of the most prolific lines of research, due to the emotional responses it provokes and that can affect athletes’ performance [7
Anxiety, which is considered a psychological response produced as a consequence of the differences between an athlete’s response capacity and the demands of the environment, accompanied by a high degree of psycho-physiological activation [8
], shows functional conditions that facilitate adaptation (e.g., helps to prepare for action) but also other dysfunctions that weaken or hinder behavior (e.g., nervousness, impulsiveness or rumination) [9
Among the different classifications that exist around this psychological response and the instruments used in research to measure it, we must highlight somatic anxiety (physiological activation that a person perceives when faced with a stressful situation) and cognitive anxiety (negative expectations and concerns about oneself and the current situation and its possible consequences) [10
In sports situations, somatic anxiety often occurs in competitions perceived as significant where there are uncontrollable elements and under conditions of social evaluation that lead to stress and a hormonal response, such as increased levels of cortisol in saliva, or physiological aspects, such as increased heart rate or muscle tension [11
]. To understand the relationship between anxiety and sports performance, Martens, Vealey and Burton [13
] established the multidimensional theory, in which they proposed that there is a negative relationship between cognitive anxiety and performance on the one hand, and a curvilinear relationship between somatic anxiety and sports performance on the other.
Anxiety is also related to sociodemographic variables such as age and gender in relation with sport contexts, due to it being multifactorial. Different studies carried out in the sports context have shown that the older the athlete, the greater the experience and competitive level in practicing a sport, and the lower their levels of anxiety, because more experienced athletes have greater and better control over their emotions [14
], greater technical-tactical mastery, and greater experience in stressful and adverse competitive situations that favor self-confidence [16
] and cognitive abilities [17
]. With regard to gender, after an extensive review of the literature, no studies were found that show statistically significant differences, although it is true that some studies have shown that women have higher levels of anxiety and less self-confidence than men, and that the production of anxiety in men and women can come from different routes. In men it is be produced by the poor management of a situation, and in women by their level of motivation [12
]. Likewise, with regard to the type of sport practiced, the results of the literature review indicate that athletes who practice team sports in which there is physical contact show higher levels of anxiety than athletes who practice individual sports [17
In a confluent direction with anxiety, resilience protects young athletes from stressful situations or threatening scenarios, giving athletes the means to avoid them [21
]. Among the many definitions of resilience, Deen, Truner and Wong [22
] explained it as a set of cognitive aspects and behavioral responses to acute or chronic adversity. Luthar, Cichetti and Becker [23
] defined it as a dynamic process of positive adaptations within a context of adversity. Fletcher and Sarkar [24
] argued that resilience is based on overcoming adversity and on positive adaptation. On the other hand, Wu et al. [25
] highlighted effective efforts to environmental challenges and ultimate resistance to the unhealthy effects of stress.
Studied in sports contexts, resilience, like anxiety, is a variable that is dependent on different factors, such as emotions, supports, experiences, strategies, motivation, and self-concept [5
], all of which facilitate optimal sports performance. This concept is really important in youth, with important implications in cognitive, physical, and social development that occurs in the adolescence [28
], and its influence on growth on the personal level and in sporting abilities [5
As for the relationship between resilience and the sociodemographic variables of age and gender, it has not been possible to establish firm conclusions since resilience has been little studied in the context of sports [30
]. However, some studies have shown that athletes are more resilient, which is probably due to their greater experience in the face of adversity both in professionals [15
] and youth athletes [28
]. With respect to their relationship with gender, there are contradictions, as there are studies that have not shown significant differences in the levels of resilience between men and women, and others that point to higher levels of resilience in men caused by a better perception of personal competence [33
With regard to the relationship between resilience and sports variables such as sporting experience or the sports modality practiced, the results of the review carried out on the first of the variables show contradictory results, since there are studies that, although they have not obtained statistically significant outcomes, have found that professional athletes with higher levels of competence are more resilient than amateur athletes [34
]; on the other hand, there are works that have reflected that athletes with less sporting experience, like youth athletes, had more resilience capacity [32
]. As for the sport practiced, different studies have shown that athletes who practice individual sports have higher levels of resilience [28
Self-confidence is understood as conviction (based on what has been learned and lived before) about the ability to perform a certain task successfully. It is evident that young people have less sporting experience and a greater probability of not being confident in their own skills and resources (e.g., several consecutive errors or failures would affect the perception of self-confidence), which would lead to living with greater perceptions of anxiety. However, different aspects could generate their improvement by looking for self-reflection before the tasks [37
], reducing the dramatism for the mistake [38
] or generating support bonds with colleagues [39
] and rational expression of emotions [40
Moreover, regarding the relationship between anxiety and resilience in sports contexts, it should be noted that based on the literature review, there is little scientific evidence on this issue in adolescent samples and outside the clinical setting. As an example, Martin-Krumm, Sarrazin, Peterson and Famose [41
], in a study conducted in France with adolescent children, demonstrated the relationship between resilience and anxiety, since the results reflected that children with a higher level of resilience controlled their anxiety levels better when performing an ability. Likewise, Ortín-Montero, De la Vega and Gonsálvez-Botella [42
], in their study about optimism, anxiety, and self-confidence in handball players, showed that the most resilient players faced the competition with greater confidence and with lower levels of anxiety.
Therefore, and on the basis of what has been reviewed so far, the objectives of the study are as follows: (a) to describe the levels of resilience and competitive anxiety, (b) to analyze the differences in terms of gender and years of sports experience, (c) to study the relationship between resiliency resources and competitive anxiety, and (d) to examine the variables that predict both resiliency resources and self-confidence in players.
The consequent negative relationship between resilience resources (especially acceptance and competition) and levels of competitive anxiety, is a reflection that to enhance the former makes it possible to regulate up to control the latter. Despite the existence of indicators of cognitive anxiety (e.g., recurrent thoughts or rhyming), coaches and athletes need to understand that they are also indicators of a necessary activation for psychological functioning. Channeling such a process through psychological training of different skills will enhance the capacities for self-confidence. Making young athletes grow up on self-acceptance (e.g., reducing the belief that they cannot lose), for the younger ones, and on the perception of competition (e.g., learning to observe their improvements) already in adolescence, will undoubtedly consolidate key aspects for an effective and adapted psychological response to sports situations.
Highlighting how to work on skills, such as understanding situations of uncertainty, cooperation, or the search for social support at early ages and with strategies that integrate such resources in the dynamics of training and sports growth, will enhance the resources for the much needed coping with stress and anxiety, as well as consolidate beliefs and attitudes that can reduce dysfunctional responses that alter (e.g., blaming others or oneself, creating fears of failure after several mistakes).